Parenting Children Between Infancy and Adolescence
“Up until your children are five years old, they are in cozy family surroundings and it is easier to instill good qualities in them. But once they start school, they are exposed to different ways of doing things and different ways of speaking.”—Valter, Italy.
AS CHILDREN grow, they explore the boundaries of their expanding world. They interact with more people—playmates, schoolmates, and extended family. As Valter, quoted above, notes, you are no longer the sole influence in your child’s life, as you were when he was an infant. That is why it is essential that you use these years to teach your child the value of obedience and good manners. It is also important to provide direction with regard to right and wrong.
The skills just described do not come quickly and intuitively. Likely, you will need to “reprove, reprimand, exhort, with all long-suffering and art of teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) Israelite parents were commanded regarding God’s laws: “You must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) As that scripture indicates, your ongoing instruction is vital.
The responsibility of raising children includes a number of challenges. Let us consider just a few of them.
A Time to Listen
The Bible says that while there is “a time to speak,” there is also a time to listen. (Ecclesiastes 3:7) How can you teach your child to pay attention when others—including you—are speaking? One way is to set the example. Do you listen attentively to others, including your children?
Children can easily be distracted, and no doubt your patience will be tested as you attempt to communicate with them. Each child is different, so be observant and determine which methods of communication work best with your child. For example, David, a father in Britain, says: “I get our daughter to tell me in her own words what I have just said. As a result, she is listening more as she gets older.”
When Jesus was instructing his disciples, he told them: “Pay attention to how you listen.” (Luke 8:18) If adults need to do that, how much more so do children!
“Forgiving One Another Freely”
The Bible states: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another.” (Colossians 3:13) Children can be trained to develop the ability to forgive. How?
As discussed above regarding the art of listening, you need to set the example. Let your children see you display a spirit of forgiveness in your dealings with others. Marina, a mother in Russia, makes an effort to do that. “We try to set a good example for our children in forgiving others, making concessions, and not getting offended,” she says, adding: “When I am wrong, I apologize to my children. I want them to learn to do the same in their dealings with others.”
The ability to resolve differences and forgive will be necessary in adulthood. Train your children now to be considerate of others and to accept responsibility for their own mistakes. By doing so, you will be imparting a valuable gift that will serve them well as they grow.
“Show Yourselves Thankful”
In these “critical times hard to deal with,” many people are “lovers of themselves.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 2) Now, while your children are young, is the time to instill in them a spirit of gratitude. “Show yourselves thankful,” wrote the apostle Paul.—Colossians 3:15.
Even while they are young, children can learn to show good manners and be thoughtful of others. How? “The best thing you can do to engender a thankful attitude is to demonstrate it tirelessly at home,” Dr. Kyle Pruett tells Parents magazine. He adds: “This means that you’re regularly saying how much you appreciate the help you get or other acts of thoughtfulness . . . It takes lots of practice.”
Richard, a father in Britain, strives to do that: “My wife and I demonstrate how to thank those who have been kind to us, such as schoolteachers or grandparents,” he says. “Whenever we visit a family for a meal, we write a thank-you card, and all the children sign it or draw a picture on it.” Being gracious and thankful will help your child to develop lasting and close relationships later in life.
“Do Not Hold Back Discipline”
As your children grow, it is essential for them to learn that actions have consequences. Even at a young age, children are answerable to authority, not only in the home but also at school and in the community. You can help your children learn the principle that you reap what you sow. (Galatians 6:7) How?
The Bible states: “Do not hold back discipline.” (Proverbs 23:13) If you have made it clear that a certain wrong act will bring a particular consequence, do not be afraid to follow through. “Consistency is vital,” says Norma, a mother in Argentina. “Inconsistency encourages a child to manipulate situations according to his liking.”
Parents can do much to avoid endless wrangling after a misdemeanor by making sure their children understand the consequences of disobedience beforehand. Children are less likely to resist if they know the rules and what will happen if they break those rules and if they have reason to believe that the consequences are nonnegotiable.
Of course, for discipline to be effective, it should not be meted out in anger. The Bible states: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you.” (Ephesians 4:31) Discipline should never take the form of brutal punishment and should never be abusive—either physically or emotionally.
But how can you restrain your temper when your child has pushed your patience to the limit? “It’s not always easy,” admits Peter, a father in New Zealand, “but children need to learn that the discipline is the consequence of their action and not the result of a parent’s lack of restraint.”
Peter and his wife try to help their children see the long-range benefit of correction. “Even if the children have done something particularly obnoxious,” he says, “we talk to them about the kind of person they need to be rather than the offender they have just been.”
“Let Your Reasonableness Become Known”
Regarding the correction he would give to his people, God stated: “I shall have to chastise you to the proper degree.” (Jeremiah 46:28) You will get the best results if you measure out correction that is fair and commensurate with the wrong that was committed. “Let your reasonableness become known,” Paul wrote to Christians.—Philippians 4:5.
Part of being reasonable involves administering correction in such a way that your children retain their dignity. Santi, a father in Italy, says: “I never belittle my son or daughter. Instead, I try to identify the root of the problem and deal with that. I don’t discipline my children in front of others, not even in front of each other, if at all possible. And I don’t make fun of their shortcomings in public or in private.”
Richard, quoted earlier, also sees the wisdom of being reasonable. “Punishment should never be cumulative, with each new wrong being added to the punishment,” he says. “After you’ve given the discipline, it’s important not to keep going on about it and reminding the child about his faults.”
Raising children is hard work that involves self-sacrifice yet brings rich rewards. That is what Yelena, a mother in Russia, has found. She says: “I have selected part-time work so that I can spend more time with my son. It takes effort and results in a loss financially, but it’s worth the sacrifice to see how much joy it brings my son and how it draws us together.”
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Children can learn to be thoughtful of others
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Correct children in such a way that they retain their dignity